Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that's a ringer for Obreht's native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger's wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia's efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather's stories about Gavran Gailé, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia.
Pages: 338 (hardcover)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
When I was working in Atlanta, I started streaming radio. I discovered a station out of Dayton, Ohio which featured book reviews by Vick Mickunas. He had a soothing voice, asked great questions, and really loved books. I started corresponding with him and was so excited to find that he was generous, smart, and funny. With various life and job changes, I was not able to listen to him on a regular basis. However, I would occasionally listen to an interview when I had the chance. I heard his interview with Tea Obreht in which they discussed The Tiger's Wife. The interview can be heard here.
Because I am on a book buying diet and my reading schedule is sporadic, I read through the book slowly. Because the story is so rich and layered, I think I enjoyed and understood it more. One of my favorite things about the story was the connection of Natalia with her grandfather. Their shared secrets, outings, and conversations reminded me a lot of my relationship with my own grandfather.
In addition to rich and complex family relationship, I also appreciated the themes of war, public health and aging. Of course, I also liked learning more about the grandfather. At times, I did get lost because of all the different story lines. Overall, I liked all the stories and the richness of the characters.
When I finished reading the book, I was in an airplane bathroom on my way from Honolulu to Baltimore on a red eye flight. Since the flight was so long and I am still giving my child breast milk, I had to pump. The only space to do it was in the bathroom. Let me say that it is truly a humbling experience to be topless with terrible light in a small bathroom while trying to make milk for your child. Fortunately, I was able to bring in a book with me and get lost in a really good story. I wish I had a rating system that included a rating entitled, "Wonderful for distracting while pumping breast milk in a cramped space with poor light."
Counting this book for the following challenge:
2012 Global Reading Challenge: I am counting this for the continent of Europe